First aid for frostbite

What is frostbite?

Frostbite occurs when tissues (e.g: the skin) are damaged due to freezing temperatures. It commonly affects the extremities, fingers and toes, as these are furthest from the heart and more susceptible to freezing.

What are the signs and symptoms of frostbite?

The initial stages of frostbite are sometimes known as “frost nip”. This results in the area feeling painful, cold and altered sensations (such as pins & needles or feeling itchy). As the frostbite develops the area may start to feel hard and turn blue/white in colour. Severe frostbite may not only affect the skin, but also deeper structures such as blood vessels, nerves and muscles.

The person may also be suffering from hypothermiaFirst aid for frostbite

What is the first aid treatment for frost bite?

First aid for frostbite involves the following steps:

  1. Assess for any hypothermia – the person may be very cold!
  2. Remove any rings / watches or constricting items from the affected limb
  3. Remove any wet or cold clothing. Replace with dry clothing
  4. Place the affected part in lukewarm water. If not available, hands can be placed under the arm pits.
  5. Arrange urgent medical assistance


– Place the affected part in very hot water

– Rub the affected part in an attempt to warm it up! 

– Walk on toes or feet affected by frost bite


John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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